Lightweights scrap to bolster reputation
Big PictureApril 17-21, Harare
Start time 1000 (0800 GMT)
Big PictureIf these two teams were geographically closer, their running battles over the years would have gathered more edge and may have prompted a nickname for their matches. As nations, Bangladesh and Zimbabwe are only tied together by their placing in international cricket, right down at the bottom of the Test-playing countries pile.
In this year's battle of prestige, the visitors have their noses ahead after an impressive last 18 months. Bangladesh have learned the harsh lessons in their last tour to Zimbabwe where they lost the one-off Test and also went down in the ODI series. It brought about major changes in the side, the biggest of them being the sacking of Shakib Al Hasan as captain and the subsequent appointment of Mushfiqur Rahim. The change at the top has made Bangladesh a more stable line-up, reflecting in their results.
After completing their most successful tour of Sri Lanka, Bangladesh should be mentally a stronger side. They have a few more confident batsmen, which ensures a middle-order less prone to collapse. An offspinner has emerged while players with more experience have fought their way back into the team. The pace attack is worrisome, but the biggest hole in the team's psyche remains their lack of knowledge of winning a Test match, the last of which came almost four years ago.
Zimbabwe on the other hand had won that game against Bangladesh in 2011, a confidence-boosting victory as it was their first Test on return from self-imposed exile. But they have not enjoyed success since, and theirs is a side mired in disputes and injuries. They have managed to recover mostly unscathed from what looked like a dire situation surrounding player payment, Craig Ervine being the only player who didn't sign the contract. But injuries have wrecked havoc: Christopher Mpofu (lower back), Tino Mawoyo (groin) and Regis Chakabva (finger) are out, leaving the team without one experienced seamer and two batsmen.
The hosts have named a 21-member squad just in case, but their bigger worry is the quiet confidence of the opposition. An interesting contest is ahead, over the weekend, if Zimbabwe can take full advantage of home advantage, but Bangladesh's previous experiences in this country have fitted them with pragmatism.
Form guideBangladesh: LDLLL (most recent results first)
Players to watchKyle Jarvis burst onto the scene in his debut Test two years ago against the same opponents. He would be expected to spearhead the attack this time, having gathered some experience during this period. Apart from a strong action, Jarvis can be expected to swing the ball in favourable conditions.
Nasir Hossain's first international foray came against Zimbabwe; he will have happy memories of scoring 63 on ODI debut there. His current form should help him continue his good work from the previous visit, as he remains an important batsman coming in at No. 7 for a team that is prone to a collapse.
Team newsZimbabwe will have to make a number of changes, with Mpofu, Mawoyo and Ervine unavailable for their various reasons. To lengthen the batting line-up, captain Brendan Taylor could give the wicketkeeping gloves to Richmond Mutumbani. They are likely to continue with the spin duo of Graeme Cremer and Prosper Utseya, but the pace combination could see Bangladesh's tormentor from the last tour, Brian Vitori, sit out.
Zimbabwe (probable) 1 Vusi Sibanda, 2 Timycen Maruma, 3 Hamilton Masakadza, 4 Brendan Taylor (capt & wk), 5 Malcolm Waller/Sean Williams, 6 Richmond Mutumbami, 7 Elton Chigumbura, 8 Graeme Cremer, 9 Keegan Meth, 10 Kyle Jarvis, 11 Tendai Chatara
Bangladesh have a problem in balancing a line-up that could see Shakib Al Hasan in only a limited bowling role. After a shin problem, Shakib is working on a rehab programme. While he will definitely play as a batsman, it's still 50-50 on whether he will bowl. Tamim Iqbal's thumb injury hasn't healed enough, while the form of Mahmudullah is another concern. Mominul Haque could make way for Shakib, while Enamul Haque jr could play alongside Sohag Gazi.
Bangladesh (probable) 1 Jahurul Islam, 2 Shahriar Nafees, 3 Mohammad Ashraful, 4 Shakib Al Hasan, 5 Mushfiqur Rahim (capt & wk), 6 Mahmudullah/Mominul Haque, 7 Nasir Hossain, 8 Sohag Gazi, 9 Enamul Haque jr, 10 Rubel Hossain, 11 Robiul Islam.
Pitch and conditionsThe pitch is not considered to be too lively, because of the mild weather conditions during this time of the year. It has good, fairly consistent carry, and is likely to be flat.
Stats and trivia
- This will be only the second Test at the Harare Sports Club in the month of April. The previous occasion was in 2001, also against Bangladesh
- Out of three Bangladesh captains to tour Zimbabwe, Naimur Rahman and Shakib Al Hasan lost their jobs after losing Test series there
Quotes"We have had hard moments but we still have our smiles and we still keep going. Life goes on. It's just one little blip and we come back and we play cricket."
Zimbabwe's caretaker coach, Stephen Mangongo, stays positive
"I have tried to find a way that works with the players and give them freedom. At the same time we want to have a disciplined environment, and we want to have fun. We just have a team focus and ensure that everyone steps up for the team."
Bangladesh's coach, Shane Jurgensen, on team ethic
Mohammad Isam is ESPNcricinfo's Bangladesh correspondent. He tweets here